March 3rd at 9:35 AM Est from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center
If you feel like it’s already been a while since our last Falcon 9 launch, well that’s because it has been ten days now since SpaceX last got off the ground. That changed this morning with Starlink mission 4-9 lifting off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The same complex that every Moon walker lifted off from decades ago in their might Saturn V rockets. Back in 2014 SpaceX signed a 20-year lease agreement with NASA for this Launch Complex. Since then, they’ve now launched forty-five missions from LC-39A, three of those being their Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently flown, along with five crewed missions.
Today’s launch was a mission we’ve all become familiar with over the last few years, Starlink. SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation which has the initiative to provide high speed, low latency internet services across the globe. Many have criticized Elon Musk and his plan to launch thousands of satellites but there is also many praising him for doing so. Especially since honoring his promise to get service running in the Ukraine right now with the conflict continuing with Russia. Earlier in the week he promised to activate service over Ukraine and provide the equipment needed on the ground. Around forty-eight hours later, units arrived, and service was up and running, helping the Ukraine stay connected and not hackable, providing much needed communication in the country.
Today marked the thirty-eighth operational Starlink mission, boosting the total number of Starlink’s launched to a whopping 2,234. Of those there are 1,992 still in orbit around Earth. The 4-9 group will take roughly thirty launches to fill the shell, this launch being the ninth of those. When the shell is completely filled it will consist of 1,584 satellites in a 540 km 53.2-degree LEO (Low Earth Orbit). It will also be comprised of seventy-two orbital planes with twenty-two satellites in each plane.
Flying today’s mission is a booster we saw fly just forty-three days ago when it launched the Starlink 4-6 mission, also from LC-39A. Starting is life in the SpaceX launching fleet back in June of 2020, B1060 has now flown eleven times. A feat we have only seen a few times but seems that SpaceX just keeps flying these boosters with no end in sight to their life span. It’s rumored that B1051 is already at Cape Canaveral and gearing up for a first twelfth flight, possibly later this month. This booster has now flown eight Starlink missions, and three for commercial customers. Those being the GPS III SV03 mission in June of 2020, the Turksat 5A launch in January of 2021, and Transporter-2 in June of 2021, when it made its first and only landing at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Today though B1060 touched down on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions about 636 km down range off the coast of the Bahamas. As it did, it became the 109th Falcon 9 to land successfully, and the 143rd Falcon 9 to launch now.